Kilbeggan Distillery Guide
Kilbeggan is a remarkable story of resurrection and resurgence. Until spring 2007, the distillery was out of production until Cooley Distillery took an interest in reviving the brand and decided to fire up the old stills. In 2010, the company bottled its first whiskey at the site – today, Kilbeggan is restoring its former reputation as one of Ireland’s premium blended whiskies.
We should thank the larger-than-life figure of John Teeling, who made his money in gold and diamond mining, for its resurrection. Teeling created Cooley in 1987, converting a former potato distillery into a top-flight whiskey producer. The company’s importance to the Irish whiskey story cannot be overestimated – not least its revival of a much-loved brand in Kilbeggan.
That distillery was founded in 1757 by Matthew MacManus. Setting the project on its path towards greatness, Kilbeggan flourished under the stewardship of John Lock, who purchased the distillery in 1843. After a disastrous accident in 1866 damaged the steam boiler, the town’s citizens rallied to his aid, reciprocating the kindness and respect he had always shown his staff. Locke could not raise the capital to fix the vital equipment beyond repair, yet the people of Kilbeggan rallied around Locke and paid for a replacement boiler.
Sadly, Kilbeggan’s fortunes declined in the 20th century. Wars, prohibition, and political rivalries helped to destroy the demand for Irish whiskey abroad. As a result, production ceased between 1924-193. The Locke family decided to sell the distillery in 1947 due to dwindling finances and a lackluster market following the Second World War. Eventually, a German businessman, Karl Heinz Moller, brought the distillery. Unfortunately, Moller was only interested in liquidating the distillery’s assets, ensuring no whiskey was made. Nevertheless, almost thirty years after the distillery closed, Kilbeggan was reopened as a museum, made possible by local enthusiasm and fundraising.
Yet, the citizens of this charming town knew that a distillery with a pedigree like Kilbeggan should not simply be consigned to the history books. Salvation came in 1987 when John Teeling purchased Kilbeggan and decided to restore the distillery to its former glory. Recommencing production in 2010, Kilbeggan has become one of Ireland’s most sophisticated distilleries, although conversely, it is the oldest working pot still producing whiskey today. A change of ownership has not meant a decline in quality – in 2012, John Teeling sold Kilbeggan to Beam Suntory. However, visitors are welcome at the distillery and encouraged to sample the small range of excellent whiskies.
But what is the quintessential quality inherent to Kilbeggan? The flagship brand is a blended whiskey that conveys a real pedigree and craftsmanship – ideal for drinking neat or as part of a cocktail. Double-distilled, this whiskey puts up quite a showing. Cereal notes and fresh barley on the nose complement fruit, vanilla, and spice.
Also, the owners launched a new product to herald a new era for Kilbeggan – Small Batch Rye. Double-distilled, the whiskey is produced from a mash of malt, barley, and about 30% rye, a common practice in the 19th century. The first of its kind for over 100 years; if other Kilbeggan whiskies mature as well as this, then the future bolds well. The nose is bursting with cereal, honey, rich oak notes, and the signature fruit of Kilbeggan. Their Single Grain is another standout whiskey – 94% of the mash bill is made of meticulously sourced corn, with the other 6% being malted barley. It has butterscotch, vanilla, orange, and other citrus fruit aromas. Then, a big wave of spices arrives. A great example of modern Irish whiskey is restoring the country’s reputation as a leading producer of premium spirits.
Kilbegan Small Batch Rye
Kilbeggan Single Grain
Facts & Figures
7.5 million cases
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